The Catholic Centre for Immigrants, (CCI) as the receiving agency in Ottawa for all Government Assisted Refugees (GARs), has received, welcomed, and housed 1109 Syrian GARs since December 29, 2015.

I am so proud of our staff who have lived through the excitement, the pleasure and the pain involved in dealing with this many people in such a short time.

We have housed them in 4 locations: our 96 bed Hostel, Maison Sophia House on Boteler Street; and at three hotels, The Radisson, The Travel Lodge West and The Embassy Suites. The average length of stay in these reception centres has been 25 days.  While they are staying with us, we provide them with an orientation to life in Canada, such as how to get important documents, budgeting, dealing with the health system, registering kids in school, and housing options.

Refugees are eager to begin building their new lives. Thanks to the generous help of landlords and so many people compassionate in our community, we have already found housing for 721 people. In other words, two thirds of these newcomers are already in their permanent homes. Ottawans from all walks of life have played key roles in making them feel welcome, helping us to move so many so quickly, and in helping them to integrate into their new communities. We will also continue supporting them through our settlement services, matching program, and community connections program.

Since December our pastoral and sponsorship program staff has met with 21 groups from across the city. In partnership with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese – a Sponsorship Agreement Holder – we now have 20 completed applications for 64 people being processed. And we are working on another 38 applications for an additional 133 people.

Also since December, we have held ten information sessions attended by 286 people on how to privately sponsor refugees. The CCI Sponsorship Coordinator has trained and helped 56 sponsor groups to prepare sponsorship applications.  Half of these applications (28) were successfully submitted to the Case Processing Center in Winnipeg.  The remaining 28 applications are being finalized.

In addition we have been asked to help recruit sponsors by many families who live here and who have relatives who are refugees somewhere in the world. Typically these families cannot afford to sponsor by themselves and are looking for volunteer sponsors. Through this process we have identified 60 refugees who have family here who need help finding sponsors.

We have also recruited 250 volunteers for our ‘circle of friends’ (for refugees) program.

Many people and organizations have gone beyond the call of duty to help us accomplish all of the above and we cannot thank them enough. In a separate story I will tell you more about their contributions but today I want you to know that many of our staff have worked night and day for weeks on end to provide a safe landing for our newest neighbors.  On behalf of all of us I want them to know that we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

Carl Nicholson,

Executive Director, CCI Ottawa